Friday 6 December 2019

Ombudsman could be next victim of Alan Shatter crisis

Political knives out for GSOC chief after scathing Guerin Report

Garda Siochana Ombudsman chairman Simon O'Brien
Garda Siochana Ombudsman chairman Simon O'Brien
Alan Shatter and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Alan Shatter


THE Garda Ombudsman is poised to be the next casualty in the ongoing fallout of the Shatter resignation after damning criticism of the organisation in the Guerin Report.

The investigation by barrister Sean Guerin was highly critical of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) over its failure to co-operate with the investigation into Sgt Maurice McCabe's allegations of garda misconduct.

Now the political knives have come out for the organisation which played a key role in the fall of Mr Shatter.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, one source close to the Cabinet noted: ''This report raises real questions as to who GSOC are accountable to."

They continued: "The unhappiness of Mr Guerin about GSOC is very interesting. The scenario where a State body is perceived to not be co-operating with an inquiry, commissioned as a matter of urgency, is utterly extraordinary."

One Labour minister said: "It will be interesting to see where the Shatter GSOC debate proceeds after this Report."

They added: "Mr Shatter may have had a very definite oversight role, but it was not his task to directly investigate crimes or allegations of garda misconduct."

Another top-level source noted: "The report is deeply scathing about GSOC. The implications are clear – there is a need for root-and-branch reform of GSOC, too."

We are, they said, "at a significant juncture".

Significantly, the Sunday Independent has learnt that the Cooke Report is imminent, with one senior source noting: "The contents of that will be interesting. We will find out that very soon."

Meanwhile, Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe expressed his delight after he was dramatically reinstated with full access to the Garda Pulse System yesterday morning.

"This brings to an end 18 months of restricted work conditions that were placed upon me," he said.

"It's a weight off my back and relief for my family after six years of stress," Sgt McCabe added.

New Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald also welcomed the decision arising from the findings of the Guerin Report.

Sgt McCabe was restricted from carrying out his duties as a garda sergeant on December 14, 2012, after his allegations of quashed penalty points emerged.

Under instruction from former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, a direction was issued to Sgt McCabe and his colleague John Wilson, gagging them from accessing electronic garda records.

However, on Friday evening, Sgt McCabe received a call from a Garda Assistant Commissioner asking him to report to Mullingar garda station yesterday morning to discuss his access to the Pulse System.

At the station, he met Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny, who informed him that he was to resume work next week with full access.

The meeting at which he received the gagging orders in December 2012 was also central to the accusation that Sgt McCabe did not co-operate with an internal garda inquiry into his terminated penalty point claims.

Sgt McCabe faced accusations from Mr Shatter and Mr Callinan that he failed to comply with the investigation despite being instructed to do so at the same meeting.

Sgt McCabe was not given a physical copy of the direction, which was read out to him by his superiors in Mullingar garda station.

However, he made a secret recording of the meeting on his mobile phone, which revealed he had not been instructed to comply with the internal investigation.

Mr Shatter backed the former commissioner at the time, but eventually bowed to pressure and apologised to the two whistleblowers.

Separately, Ms Fitzgerald signalled that a ''Patten-style Commission'' into the gardai is poised to play a key part in her plans to drive a "root-and-branch" reform of the force.

Commenting on the Guerin Report, Minister Fitzgerald said: "Obviously the need for root-and-branch reform of policing is being articulated very clearly. It is very important to see how this might succeed."

The minister added: "Is there an initiative that would best capture this – we have to resolve what Guerin found about inconsistency of approach, an absence of nationwide standards, inadequate supervision.

"We have to find an initiative that best captures this. A Patten-style Commission may be one way of doing that."

Sunday Independent

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